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Title: Keeping it up : masculinity in male-authored English fiction, 1950-1971
Author: Ferrebe, Alice
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2003
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This thesis examines the significance of the category of the masculine in fiction produced in two decades after the Second World War. It argues that masculinity has an influence not just within the delineation of gender roles, but also upon literary narrative, style and definitions of selfhood. It takes as its focus the work of the white, middle-class, English, fiction-making majority, or rather, a group of male writers who strove to interpellate both themselves and their peers as such. Selected novels by authors such as Kingsley Amis, William Cooper, John Fowles, Andrew Sinclair and Colin Wilson are considered in the social and cultural context of the newlyestablished Welfare State, a time of accelerating capitalism and consumerism. Though they are habitually derided for being apathetic, I will argue that novels of this period have a profoundly political aim: the reassertion of male power and solidarity at a time in which its influence was perceived to be waning. Importantly, these texts are produced before the concerted promptings towards a renegotiation of the concept of gender by Second Wave feminism, and before the publication of Kate Millett's Sexual Politics, which exploded the traditional literary connection of the male with the universal. Chapter One establishes the theoretical and epistemological framework surrounding the category of masculinity, and examines recent critical considerations of a gendered relationship between reader and fictional narrative. Chapter Two posits the category of the 'masculine text'. Such a text functions to channel its reader's desire for traditional narrative pleasure and a privileged cognitive role into the acceptance of a range of masculine definitions and principles, most particularly that of a rational and essential masculine self. Chapter Three examines the influence of existentialism. It argues the potential of the philosophy to deconstruct essentialist masculinity, and assesses the extent to which this radicalism is realised in English fiction of the time. In the light of the developing argument for the influence of masculinity on narrative structure and style, Chapter Four examines some of the formally experimental novels of a 'long Sixties', including those by Thomas Hinde, B. S. Johnson and Colin Maclnnes. It considers the way in which gendered conceptions of subjectivity, sexuality and youth both compromise and are compromised by masculine narrative tropes. This study serves to undermine the idea of masculinity as a stable, definable concept. It ultimately establishes gender as a complex and paradoxical illusion, but an illusion capable of enormous influence over the fiction of the post-war period. Its conclusions extend beyond the two decades of its focus to interrogate the gendered nature of any relationship between reader and text.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available